Updates: Added recipes 27 Mar 2015
“When I was 16 I wanted to train for a nurse but Mother wouldn’t let me so there was nothing else to do but learn dress making. My sister [Lulu] was a milliner. But if I had stood out, mother would have given out, I guess, but you didn’t disobey your parents. And I hated dressmaking, but I was [laugh] too particular, and when I finished the year’s dress making, I had all the finishing touches to do because [laugh] I was too particular! And she always took me in to try the brides’ dresses on, and one day she took me in 4 times. And I said “Miss Higgins, why do you always take me instead of my cousin?” And she said, “Well, you have muscles here in front of your shoulders.” I used to do physical culture, you see. And do all the exercises. So she said 'You will find out when you start dress making.' And I did.”
Unlike me, Granny preferred the outdoors over working inside, and she liked working with animals. She was also a skilled horse woman like her mother. Her Richardson grandfather had been a games keeper in Norfolk England, and so her father had been raised to manage the land and animals and was a skilled hunter. Nell said that her father came to rely on her help to run their farm. I also found mention of Nell and her father in some old newspapers, winning prizes at the fall fairs for their chickens and produce. Of course there was always lots of hard work to see to, both inside and out. In later years my Aunt Harriet once told me that she would often be put on house duty so that her mother Nell could see to the outside work. Apparently it was a win-win situation for them both!
- 1911 S’side Exhibition Races and Prize List, published in the Charlottetown Guardian, 25 Sep 1911, pg 3, col 2 “Poultry-Class VII.
Orphington Buff Cock and Hen - 1, Sydney Richardson, St. Eleanor’s; 2, John Jenneth McKenzie, Summerside. …
Pair Orphington buff Chickens - 1, Miss E. L Richardson, St. Eleanor’s; 2, Sydney Richardson, St. Eleanor’s.”
- 1912 Summerside Exhibition prizes, published in the Charlottetown Guardian, 21 Sep 1912, pg 9, col 5 “Poultry. Class VII.
Orpington Buff Cock and Hen - 1, Sydney Richardson, St. Eleanors.
Pair Orphington Buff Chickens - 1, Sydney Richardson, St. Eleanors; 2, Miss E.L. Richardson, St. Eleanors”
Food was also the focal point for all social and family gatherings, whether it be at picnics, church bazaars and teas, community events, entertaining visitors or celebrating birthdays and holidays. As one of my cousins so ably said when writing about Granny and her daughters: "food was a very important element of get-togethers, and provided the glue that kept the family in touch with one another”. My mother and her sisters were taught to make cakes and cookies and, as my Aunt Harriet would say, “endless jelly rolls”. It became their way of life to prepare plenty of food and generously share it.
Nell and Harry married during the time of the first world war, when Harry was needed on the home front for agricultural purposes - he continued to grow food on his father's farm in North St Eleanors, PEI. Nell and Harry soon started a family and my mother Mabel, born in 1918, was the second of their seven children.
The world was a changed place after the first war, and in the 1920s people on PEI had to adapt to the downward trend of its peace-time economy. In part this was caused by their dwindling supply and lower market prices for its natural resources, higher freight costs, and increased tariffs and competition. In 1921, one third of the island’s population was engaged in agriculture. Federal government subsidies helped for a while, but life only got more difficult during the depression years of the 1930s. The higher unemployment caused many to leave the island.
Nell and Harry also had plans to move off the island after this first Great War, perhaps to join Nell’s older brother Mel in the west. However, when Harry’s father became ill (he later died in 1920), the family convinced them to stay and take over the running of the family farm. It was very hard work, often with very little monetary reward. I remember hearing stories about the backbreaking work to grow crops of potatoes (PEI spuds!), turnips and other produce only to find that the only price they could get for them wouldn’t even meet their costs, so were not worth the labour to harvest. Times must have been very lean.
All this took its toll on Nell’s health and she developed heart problems and high blood pressure. It was probably in 1950 when the doctor practically ordered her to go and join her husband and the majority of her children in Duncan BC. It still must have been very difficult for her to say goodbye to both her parents and leave them behind in the care of other relatives (they died in PEI in 1951).
So Nell made the journey west, and the reunion with her family in Duncan must surely have been a joyous occasion. Also welcoming her were her sister-in-law Mabel and her husband Fred MAY, who had moved out with Harry. When daughter Harriet and family joined them in 1953, only George (in Ontario) and Alan (probably in Manitoba in the Air Force) remained "away". Her brother Melbourne RICHARDSON was now much closer in Seattle. After Mel's wife died in 1960, Nell even played matchmaker (successfully), introducing him to my grade 1 teacher on one of his visits. He married Kay in 1963.
Nell resided in the Duncan BC area for the rest of her life, first in a house on Herd Road which she really liked, particularly the large veranda. I don’t think the family was there very long, needing to move closer into town to be closer to work. Their next house was at 5784 Garden Street in Duncan where they remained for many years. It backed onto a lane along side the lumberyard and near the train tracks. It was a very short walk into town, and the dairy was at the end of the street.
Nell’s three older sons enlisted in the Canadian forces, and Dean was critically wounded overseas. I can only try to imagine the extreme anxiety and stress that his parents Nell and Harry went through when they first got news and then had to wait for delayed news of his condition and latest circumstances. Fortunately, Dean returned to PEI once he was able to travel, but the doctor then advised him to move to a milder climate where he could better convalesce.
"52 Ancestors" is a reference to the "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge I am participating in.
Reference the No Story Too Small blog by genealogist Amy Johnson Crow for more details.
It is giving me the much needed incentive to write and publish my family stories.